Facebook's Semantic Advertising Future

Social networks hold a bounty of consumer information, and features like Facebook’s Graph and hashtags, when combined with semantic search technology, will make it possible to unearth new connections and micro-target ad campaigns.

There’s over 2.5 billion content items -- over 500 terabytes of data -- added to Facebook’s databases each day, including over 2.7 billion “likes.” The introductions of Graph Search and hashtags to Facebook have generated waves of excitement among advertisers and marketers to tap into that data. Facebook’s marketing potential has increased dramatically.

Graph Search is intended to make it much easier for Facebook users to locate people, photos, and videos. But it’s now possible for marketers to search across the collective network of over a billion worldwide users to identify common opinions, “likes” or interests. The results will be different depending upon the preferences of individuals within any given social circle – or, in all probability, market segment.



It’s possible to “ask” the Graph what the best pizza in New York is, or to locate individuals living within the East Village who are vegans. Research shows that vegans are more likely than others to try new things, so the upside for businesses is evident.

Hashtags, which were introduced to Facebook last month, aggregate conversations that occur across Facebook onto a dedicated page to create greater advertising opportunities. Presumably, an advertiser could “own” or “brand the page” for a show like #dancingwithstars or a major event like #worldseries. Brands can also reach beyond their current follower base by tapping into conversations that have the hashtag, or by creating conversations and encouraging people to join in.

Social media buying firm OMD estimates that 75% of its clients, which include major brands such as GE and PepsiCo, have already tried hashtags on Facebook. Sotrender has found that 61 of the UK’s top 100 companies are also trying it out. Fashion brand Michael Kors has recently attempted to start conversations about handbags with the hashtag #WhatsInYourKors. BET used the same strategy for its recent BET Awards and had over 9 million Facebook interactions, Mashable reports.

That all sounds terrific, but Sotrender has found that the influence of hashtags isn’t as great as anticipated. The U.K. brand data demonstrated a real but weak relationship between hashtags and engagements. Let’s examine what’s missing.

Graph Search and hashtags are major advancements for marketers and advertisers, but their respective benefits won’t be fully realized until they are integrated. The issue is that hashtags are driven by keyword search, which is arguably dated. That alone this won’t serve as a long-term strategy for targeting campaigns. Advanced semantic technology is what’s required to bring those concepts together.

Semantic search provides the ability to access unstructured data such as chats or video that would give marketers the opportunity to tap into conversation streams allowing them to create highly targeted micro campaigns. These would include: likes, interests, associates, hashtags and content of conversation over Facebook.

It then becomes possible to micro-target BET viewers, dancing fans, fashion enthusiasts, potential GE customers, Pepsi drinkers, and World Series watchers.

The real marketing power will come into play when hashtags are folded into Facebook’s Graph Search, which is powered by semantic search.

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